Russ McBee breaks down the ramifications of changes in the Sunshine Law just about as good as I’ve seen. I honestly don’t think that people always understand the need for Open Government. It is also my opinion that it is a variety of things, including corporate entities with public ties that fall under the law that want this changed as much as politicians, who want to do what they want to do without intervention.
The sunshine law prevents the heads of those two camps from meeting in secret to hammer out an agreement between them and thus garnering a majority of the commission by virtue of their leadership positions. By increasing the forbidden number of members meeting in secret to four (as the committee has proposed), the spirit and intent of the sunshine law will be rendered meaningless.
Sunshine has a fatal effect on vampires; I guess it’s no surprise the blood-suckers in our county government want to shield themselves from it.
I go back to it being the government of the people. Not journalists, but people. The Memphis Daily Journal has the AP story about the possible changes.
There is a battle going on, did you know that? It’s about the right to know. You might think all this stuff is small potatoes or think it doesn’t affect you, but it does.
Four members being able to meet in private is too many. The business of government needs to be out in the open. I’ve been to hundreds of meetings where no one, except a couple of members of the press, never showed up. But they could. Tennesseans had the option.
Then, I’ve been to hot-topic meetings (consolidation of the high schools in the mid-90’s comes to mind) where you couldn’t move due to the sea of outraged citizens. I covered the meeting sitting at a judges desk sharing a chair with a man while holding a microphone (I was in radio then.)
The people decided that particular issue was important. They wanted to know what was going on. This, of course, is just an example but remember this. THE PEOPLE DECIDED they needed to exercise their voice and they did. They decided to use their rights.
They had the option to know.
The whole thing in Knoxville is so transparent that it would be laughable if it wasn’t sickening. Then, this happens. Private-deals get the commission in hot water, so now a legislative committee wants to change the way open meetings are held? Coincidence, maybe, but folks in control have wanted to change the Sunshine Law for years. It’s inconvenient for them.
Imagine if no one could have gone to that consolidation meeting fifteen years ago. Imagine if there hadn’t been a dialogue about the future of their kids. There was a compromise made which suited no one, but the people’s voice was heard. Mind-boggling.
If these laws are changed, then it will take a generation to get them changed back. And, the laws are really ambiguous enough right now to confuse people who think these laws are just for journalists. Frank Gibson of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government has been preaching this for years.
This issue is important. And we need to raise our voices to the rooftops.